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The Basics of Personal Injury

According to the National Centre for Health Statistics, unintentional injuries made up 97.9 million of the visits to the emergency department in 2018. Understanding the basics of personal injury law is fantastic knowledge that can save you a lot of money and emotional distress should these situations arise. 

For example, bad slip and fall accidents in a supermarket could result in hospitalisation, rendering the casualty unable to work for a long period of time. Could the accident have been avoided? Was the accident caused by a pothole, or a dirty floor? In these situations, filing a personal injury lawsuit could help to cover hefty medical fees or wages lost during this period.

Personal injury refers to cases where a person’s body has been harmed or hurt. Should there be parties at blame whose actions led to the incident, this law allows for casualties to demand compensation for the harm suffered. 

Personal injury falls under the bigger category of tort laws, which extend beyond individual persons, such as harm inflicted on businesses and properties. However, the words personal injury and tort are often used interchangeably.

Grounds for Claims

Negligence, which accounts for the majority of personal injury lawsuits, happens when a party did not intend to cause harm but because of their careless actions, indirectly resulted in another person’s injury. This is based on how a normal person in their position would act, and that they are bound by legal duty to act in a similarly reasonable manner. Accidents due to reckless driving would fall under negligence, where the driver did not fulfil his legal duty of being careful on the road, even if he did not mean to, say, knock into a pedestrian.

Intentional Wrongs, on the other hand, involve the defendant acting on purpose with the intent to harm the plaintiff. These include obvious scenarios like battery, assault and fraud. Injuries sustained from pranks could also fall under this category, as the defendant had the intention of carrying out the prank.

Sometimes, every party involved appears to have done their due diligence and adhered to all protocols and regulations. In these cases, the injured party can claim Strict Liability, which demands for compensation from the defendant simply because their actions resulted in an injury. For example, product companies tend to be strictly liable if any consumer suffers as a result of using their products, even though there is no evidence of the company’s negligence or intent to harm. 

Harm and Damages

Claims can be made for damages in the form of both physical and mental trauma caused to the human body. Apart from bodily injuries, less quantifiable effects such as pain and suffering, the aftermath of defamation, and even the loss of enjoyment in life can be considered injuries suffered by an individual. 

For example, losing the sense of smell and taste might not seem debilitating, but not only does it make carrying out daily activities difficult, it also significantly reduces the ability to experience joy and pleasure and can be considered a form of injury.

Damages, or monetary compensation, is based mainly on how severe the injury is. Straightforward damages include medical bills and the loss of income from missing work during the recovery period. Less clear-cut ones include compensation for pain and suffering, or loss of future income if the injury resulted in a permanent effect on their ability to work. 

Filing a Lawsuit

If you or someone close to you has suffered an avoidable injury at the fault of another party, it is important to seek immediate medical attention and gather all relevant medical records and evidence. 

To make a personal injury claim, the first step is to file a “complaint” to the court, detailing the parties involved, the harmful act, the damage caused and the demanded compensation. Both parties can then either agree on a settlement, or move on to the trial for judgement. 

Records from the U.S. Department of Justice show that more than 90 percent of personal injury cases end in settlement before the trial. However, for those that move on, there is a high chance of losing a trial, especially without the representation of a good lawyer. For example, defendants might claim that the incident was a result of the victim’s own actions and decisions, such as engaging in dangerous sports even after knowing about the risks involved. 

There is also a limited window of time allowed for a personal injury claim to be filed after the incident has taken place, known as the statute of limitations. Consulting an attorney might help to speed up the process and prevent cases from being lost due to this reason. 

The cost of hiring a personal injury lawyer is negotiable, and usually follows a contingency fee basis where a percentage of the compensation is paid to the attorney after the case is won, or not required if the case is lost.

Accidents can happen to anyone, at any time. Knowing what you are entitled to and what you can do when it happens can remove any additional stress on you and your loved ones.